Artists I Like- Lucy Hilmer

It’s great when friends send me links to the work of artists with whom I am not familiar. Lucy Hilmer is the latest artist that I have discovered through my friend Laurie.10

Hilmer has three series on her website, all of which address the issue of time and aging. The first series, “Birthday Suits”, consists of pictures that she has taken of herself every year on her birthday since 1974. In them, she wears a pair of underpants, shoes and socks, but is otherwise nude.

 

 

 

The second series, “The Wedding House”, shows Hilmer and her husband standing in front of the house in which they got married in 1984. They go there every year on their anniversary to make take a picture commemorating the event.

The third series, “My Valentine”, is a series of 21 photographs, all of which chart the first twenty-one years of her daughter’s life on Valentine’s Day. The pictures depict her husband, who has on a black sweater, and her daughter, who wears white, and a rose.

Because I have shot a number of series in this manner over the course of many years, I have a real appreciation for the discipline required to get out your camera and take a shot every year on the same date. Hilmer’s poses hint at what is going on in her life in any given year, without giving too much away, and I really respond to that. The fact that her work is in black & white makes it relatively timeless, as does the fact that her clothing in her “Birthday Suit” series is exactly the same from year to year. This work is for anyone who has ever been interested in the relationship between photography, time and memory.

 

Artists I Like- Dario Robleto

The best things often happen when you aren’t looking for anything to happen at all. On a whim, I turned on the radio to an NPR station the other day, and almost instantly forgot my surroundings because I became so focused on the interview I was hearing. Dario Robleto, a conceptual artist who makes primarily sculptural pieces but does not limit himself by media, was talking with Krista Tippet for On Being, a radio show and blog based on examining the fundamental question: “What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?”

What Robleto had to say about memory, art, depression, history, relationships, etc. spoke to me deeply. He values words as much as art objects and it’s clear that he thinks a lot about the origins and execution of his work. What else can I say?! Listen to the podcast and prepare to be moved.

The Sun Remembers Your Shadow, 2012

The Sun Remembers Your Shadow, 2012

 

Thoughts on the Aesthetic Experience

When writing up my last post about the importance of presentation in relation to the viewer’s reaction to art, I was reminded of an interview that a former student of mine and fellow photographer, Kayla Wandsnider, conducted with me a few months ago. She was curious to know my thoughts on the nature of the aesthetic experience. I told her a story that once again speaks to the power of context and presentation in the experience of art:

KW: I believe that environment can play a substantial role in an aesthetic experience. Do you think that this is true?

JAS: Yes, totally. And experience I had in Salzburg, Austria, comes immediately to mind. It was a very gloomy, rainy day and I was cold and wet and tired. While walking down a narrow street in the inner city on my way back to my hotel, I decided to go into a church I happened to be passing. The building was nothing special on the outside- in fact, it was so plain that I almost didn’t recognize it as a church. I went in because I simply wanted to sit down and rest for a while.  At the exact moment that I entered, the opening chords of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor rang out unexpectedly, filling the church with glorious sound that seemed to cascade torrentially out of the heavens. At the same time, light poured down through the church’s long, slender windows, in stark contrast to the overcast gloom outside. I was completely paralyzed with shock. I hadn’t expected it to be so light inside, hadn’t known that music of any kind would be playing, hadn’t anticipated that I would suddenly be experiencing something so moving, so beautiful, so arresting. I could hardly breathe, it was was so overwhelming.

I sank slowly into a pew as the music continued to play, not really seeing anything, living completely in the moment. It felt like time was suspended.

The combination of the location, the weather, the light, the music, my physical state and, yes, the unexpectedness of it all, led to one of the most profound aesthetic experiences of my life. And it wasn’t about the church building, it wasn’t about the music itself, it was an experience that came about because  ALL of those things put together transported me to…. Somewhere Else. I will never forget it.